The San Diego Coffee Network kicked off its very first full season of TNTs on January 21 at North Park’s Italian gem, Caffe Calabria. San Diego TNTs have turned into an international affair given San Diego’s proximity to the U.S./Mexico border. Thirty-two baristas from as far south as Tijuana; as far north as San Francisco; and even as far east as New York came out to compete. We’d like to think it is our reputation as America’s Finest City, but we may have to give partial credit the record warm temperatures this winter.
The honorable judges presiding, at what will be remembered as “The battle of the Swanton,” were: Todd Goldsworthy of Klatch Coffee in L.A.; Anna Lee Fleming of North Park News in San Diego; and John Rippo of The Espresso in San Diego.
In round 1, the baristas poured hearts into a 6-ounce cup and 32 quickly became 16 competitors, in a series of head-to-head battles.
Competitors in round 2 were tasked with pouring rosettas into 10-ounce cups, and the 16 baristas were pared down to eight.
In round 3, the eight remaining competitors had to pour tulips into 10-ounce cups. Then it all came down to free pours.
During the free pour, Anton Dimov of Caffe Calabria broke out a swan—a risky move since he last used it against a Seattle barista in the final pour of 2013 at Café Virtuoso. As instant replay will show, he clearly misjudged the milk needed and ran shy at the end, unable to complete the sinuous neck of the swan. This time, however, he executed it with precision and James Davalos of Kean Coffee in Orange County took third while Anton advanced to the final pour against Joshua Bonner, a San Diego prodigal son, just recently returned from San Francisco.
In the final pour, Anton—who was nicknamed “Swanton” for his pours—poured a swan that appeared to be about to take flight with two wings outstretched,stepping the free pour up a notch from his previous pour, which depicted the simple, but elegant profile of a swimming swan. The crowd held its collective breath. It was game on!
Bonner answered Swanton’s elegance with a pour of technical difficulty several notches higher to nudge in for the win, pouring a perfectly formed tulip into a shot glass.
While there is a grand prize winner per TNT, the San Diego Coffee Network is doing a few things different this year. First, baristas earn points during each TNT that advances them closer to the top 8 at the finale. For signing up, baristas receive 5 points. Every time they advance, they receive 5 points. For fourth thru first places, points are rewarded as follows: 10, 15, 25, and 35 (respectively).
There will be three more SDTNTs over the next few months, which means three additional opportunities to earn points and advance to the finale. The top 8 qualify for the champions bracket. Grand prizes still have yet to be finalized, but will include a Baratza grinder, swag from Barista Magazine, classes at Fourbarrel in San Francisco, and more.
The dates for the next SDTNTs are below, and details can be found at sdcoffeenetwork.com/events.